Queen - Greatest Hits I and II

2011-02-09 12:39
We're in Greatest Hits Season it seems. P!nk, Jay-Z, Bon Jovi (reviewed here soon) and several others have done the new compilation thing in the past few months. 

But it was quite a surprise to find a re-issue of Queen's Greatest I and II in the mail the other day. And my attention was immediately drawn to the sleeve notes, where I was curious to see whether this was the last throw of the dice for EMI Queen, or whether it was the first cash-in by the new label. "Universal" it says on the back.  Fair enough.

And good play on their part to issue the original covers emblazoned with the "digital remaster" ploy. Because in reality Queen should be reissued every ten years or so anyway, lest the younger crowd hopped up on 30 Seconds to Mars forget what number one hits sounded like back in the days of real album rock.

No doubt most fans own a copy of these already, whether on vinyl or numerous CD editions. And the two discs appropriately offer quite different listening experiences, splitting the most successful years of "England's only reigning monarch" nicely between the early years of enchanting album virtuosity and radio rock superstars they became in the 80s and 90s.

So for me it's Volume I that still holds the most charm... "Killer Queen", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Bicycle Race", "Somebody To Love", etc... it's testament really to better times in music that all these songs – as wildly different in tone and invention as they are – were megahits and are still so well loved around the world.

Volume II has its highlights, though. While the truly adventurous Queen is less present ("Innuendo" is probably the closest one gets to vintage Queen), their popular output became some of the finest in modern music. Surprisingly it's a lesser hit that packs the most balls-out punch – "One Vision" is still sounding as glorious as ever, because of those killer drum and guitar parts (hey, four solo bars is all Brian May needs to own the damn track!)

Meanwhile, you'll no doubt hear more of the rock n' rollers on Supersport promos through the years.  And though I'll deny it on another day, there a few songs better at uniting thousands of people in single voice than "Friends will be Friends", "I Want It All", "It's a Hard Life", and yes... even "Radio Gaga".  In that respect, Queen has probably done more for global musical unity than any other rock band, even the Beatles.  

Note for collectors and audiophiles: The "remaster" does sound a bit flat in places... and then rather over-dynamic in others, but it's really being a tad nitpicky on my part to offer that as reason for casual fans to avoid.

Queen has probably done more for global musical unity than any other rock band, even the Beatles.
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